Understand your subject… Mantanani Island 2010

I enjoy snorkeling. I have lived more than 30 years and the first time I tried it, I find it exhausting but fun (orang kampung bah…tua sudah baru dapat cuba 🙂 ). But the thing that I am really glad to know when it comes to snorkeling is that…I can float (with help) 🙂 Anyway…speaking of snorkeling, I have a story to share…but sorry to say, it is not about how to stay afloat when snorkeling.

In 2010, Mari Mari Dive Lodge in Mantanani Kechil of Mantanani Island had trust me and Mr Paulson Linggi  to photograph on their facilities and activities in the Island.  In brief, Mantanani Island is a group of three isolated islands located northwest of Kota Belud, an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. Then, an approximately one hour speedboat ride to the island. Among the attraction here are diving, sunset & sunrise watching, sea kayaking, snorkeling and obviously it is heaven for photographers.

Our 3 day 2 nights assignment is to document all the in-land/on board activities only and the dive lodge management know and understand enough that Mr. Paulson Linggi and I are not going to dive or do any wet photography on that assignment and the fact is I myself never even snorkel once in my life. Diving is of course out of question. In between the in-land / on board photography and since I bring along my waterproof casing (a souvenir from a friend actually) it is a kind of a “miss” if I didn’t give it a try on some wet photography. I guess the combination of opportunity, motif and my ambitiousness prove to be too much for me. They really tested my luck with my Nikon D60 & D80 on waterproof casing…and my stamina when doing an alien activity for the first time.

Well as the in-land photography assignment went well as plan (but I’m not going to mumble about it) instead today I will share with you about my first ambitious snorkeling  + photography experience. Not necessarily in chronological order, but here were the conditions:-

1st – I was too worry about the waterproof casing reliability (even though I did check it many times)

2nd -Being an in-land boy in the open sea, I just didn’t trust the life jacket (pardon me but Kiulu is way far from the deep sea)

3rd – I was to ambitious to get nice shot even though it was my 1st attempt in life to snorkel

Being ambitious I force myself to trust this bugger to keep safe my DSLR on Mantanani Island snorkeling session

Day 1 :


Day 1 - Today, i know how it feels to walk like a duck 🙂

Day 1 - when I'm not sure about the waterproof casing reliability

On first attempt, ambitious me jump into the water busy with my DSLR on waterproof casing and what I get is just the sea bed on shallow  water with nothing at all.. and frankly while tourist enjoy the colorful coral and its marine life I see nothing and guess what poor me I jumped into the wrong spot.. and here is my capture after 2 hours struggling with my very own style of snorkeling…

Day 1 - This kind of capture dominated of my capture on Day 1 snorkeling

Reflecting back at my snorkeling photos back in the lodge I find out that to get a photo that I want, I really need to understand how to snorkel, what are these snorkeling tourist look for, trust the waterproof casing, trust the life jacket and get an expert buddy from the lodge just to guide me in that session.

Day 2 :

Today the lodge’s senior staff Jack Sparrow  (as everybody call him) and Jessica gave me a hand in helping me to understand the Snorkeling 101.


Day 2 - partly joke.. do you need this? thank you Jessica 🙂


Day 2 - Jack Sparrow the lodge's senior staff tried to motivate me.. I guess he was saying like.. bub..buuub..buuub..buuub..bluuub.. or in others words.. "come on Kiulu boy.. you can do it" 🙂

Day 2 - and I think the motivation was good 🙂 - Jessica the dive lodge senior staff give a hand to get me familiar with things you can do while snorkeling

In day 2 session, mostly I learnt how to be confident in sea, how to enjoy the view and only the last 20 minutes before the session wrap-up that I get up to the boat to take my camera and try to take photo while snorkeling. Even though there was no coral no fish in that particular area, the confidence that I felt was more than enough… thank you Jack Sparrow and Jessica for the great familiarization session

Day 3 :

It was my final chance at least to get some signature shot for snorkeling  activity here in Mantanani island and I was determined to get myself relax enough and enjoy the snorkeling activity in order for me to get the photo that I wanted..

Day 3 - the Kiulu boy taking self portrait before snorkling 🙂

and before we leave the Dive lodge here is my signature shot of Mantanani snorkeling activity.. well I guess it is much below par if you decide to compared it to those diving photographer but it is a kind of consolation photo for 1st timer Kiulu boy not only in taking photo in the water but also while the snorkeling.

Day 3 - My consolation photo captured with Nikon D80 on my final day here in Mantanani Island

So after all the ranting above.. what I learnt from this experience was when come into photography, it is not only about the camera technicality but I sincerely believe that to get a great capture, I must learn how the subject work, to trust the equipment that I have and most of all to trust the people around you…

Where are others photo of Mantanani Island? Well since they are commission photography, I guess it is not wise for me to publish it here but anyway will blog about it next time with some photo that purposely taken for future write-up 🙂

Till than thanks for your kind visit and hope this one cents experience will benefit newbies in your future assignment 🙂



About lano lan

A freelance photographer with 5 years experience in photography. Familiar with local culture in Malaysia and has vast experience in capturing moments in any local event particularly in Sabah. As a full time photographer, I am also familiar and able to take advantage of the local climate condition. In other words, rain or shine, there is always a chance of capturing lights in action.
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2 Responses to Understand your subject… Mantanani Island 2010

  1. Like Sun Tzu.. Know yourself & know your enemy, in a thousand battle you shall not be in peril… Art of War… 🙂 my pebret quote.. 🙂

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